They entered into office on the day they were elected, for so it had been determined by the fathers.
When the customary decrees of the senate were passed, they proposed the consideration of the Caudine peace; and Publilius, who was in possession of the fasces, said, “Spurius Postumius, speak:” he arose with just the same countenance with which he had passed under the yoke, and delivered himself to this effect:
“Consuls, I am well aware that I have been called up first with marked ignominy, not with honour; and that I am ordered to speak, not as being a senator, but as a person answerable as well for an unsuccessful war as for a disgraceful peace.
However, since the question propounded by you is not concerning our guilt, or our punishment; waving a defence, which would not be very difficult, before men who are not unacquainted with human casualties or necessities, I shall briefly state my opinion on the matter in question; which opinion will testify, whether I meant to spare myself or your legions, when I engaged as surety to the convention, whether dishonourable or necessary:
by which, however, the Roman people are not bound, inasmuch as it was concluded without their order; nor is any thing liable to be forfeited to the Samnites, in consequence of it, except our persons.
Let us then be delivered up to them by the heralds, naked, and in chains. Let us free the people of the religious obligation, if we have bound them under any such; so that there may be no restriction, divine or human, to prevent your entering on the war [p. 570]
anew, without violating either religion or justice.
I am also of opinion, that the consuls, in the mean time, enlist, arm, and lead out an army; but that they should not enter the enemy's territories before every particular, respecting the surrender of us, be regularly executed.
You, O immortal gods! I pray and beseech that, although it has not been your will that Spurius Postumius and Titus Veturius, as consuls, should wage war with success against the Samnites, ye may yet deem it sufficient to have seen us sent under the yoke;
to have seen us bound under an infamous convention; to have seen us delivered into the hands of our foes naked and shackled, taking on our own heads the whole weight of the enemy's resentment.
And grant, that the consuls and legions of Rome may wage war against the Samnites, with the same fortune with which every war has been waged before we became consuls.”
On his concluding this speech, men's minds were so impressed with both admiration and compassion, that now they could scarce believe him to be the same Spurius Postumius who had been the author of so shameful a peace;
again lamenting, that such a man was likely to undergo, among the enemy, a punishment even beyond that of others, through resentment for annulling the peace.
When all the members, extolling him with praises, expressed their approbation of his sentiments, a protest was attempted for a time by Lucius Livius and Quintus Maelius, tribunes of the commons, who said, that “the people could
not be acquitted of the religious obligation by the consuls being given up, unless all things were restored to the Samnites in the same state in which they had been at Caudium;
nor had they themselves deserved any punishment, for having, by becoming sureties to the peace, preserved the army of the Roman people; nor, finally, could they, being sacred and inviolable, be surrendered to the enemy or treated with violence.”